Can Men be Feminists?

Man portrait

Image by @Doug88888 via Flickr/Creative Commons

Before answering, we have the think about what we understand feminism to be and what it actually is. Sometimes when we think of feminists, we imagine absurd caricatures. We imagine an army of extremely critical, hairy-legged, over the top, man-hating, ball-crushing women who use the blood of John Doe to ink the Venus symbol onto their war flag of liberation. We imagine Jane Doe uplifted on a golden throne, making every man in sight bow down to her almighty woman-ness. But as colorful as those images are, they do not represent what feminism is and where it comes from.

Women who declare that men are inferior are not feminists. Most would call them the “extreme feminists,” and though I don’t feel like these women fit into the feminist cabinet at all, they still manage to become the poster children of the feminist movement.

A feminist is your third grade teacher who is impartial to all of her students no matter the gender. A feminist is your mail-woman who works just as hard as her male co-workers, and knows her rights and her boundaries. A feminist can be your brother, your husband, or your father.

I understand that some of you might scrunch your foreheads and say one of the following misinformed things:

“What do you mean he’s a feminist?”

“My husband’s manly.”

“My dad’s not gay.”

Feminism is not a movement that advocates the superiority of the female or general femininity. It’s not about telling the world that women deserve to own the earth, and all of the oxygen in its atmosphere. It’s a movement about egalitarianism. It’s about making sure that women are equal, and equality isn’t anything to be ashamed of. The surprising part about all of this is that some women buy into the crazy feminist stereotype. They treat it like the F-Bomb and hesitate to recognize themselves as feminists because they see an army of raging estrogen instead of peaceful advocacy for equality. When they hear the word, they turn to the closest male and say, “Oh there’s no way that I am a feminist.” But when they are denied an important opportunity because of their gender, they are the first ones to jump up in arms, stand in front of the white house and chant the lyrics to Anything You Can Do (I can do better.)

I think that those of us who turn our noses up to feminism are actually feminists who don’t understand the movement. And if we can’t correctly define feminism, there is no way on God’s green earth that our fathers can. How can we teach anyone else about who we are if we don’t know who we are? Male feminists exist, and why shouldn’t they? I would never expect a decent person to be so selfish that they would want to take basic rights away from another human being. I say that I don’t expect it, but I do recognize that it has happened before. Slavery and the Holocaust are two testimonies to this brand of selfishness and there are many more social atrocities in human history.

My sixth-period Women in Media class is probably one of the best courses I’ve ever taken in my high school career. It’s a rather small class consisting of six students and out of the six, only one of them is a male. This guy is no stranger to rooms full of estrogen and tampon talks. In our creative writing classes, he is but one man in a pool of twelve to fifteen women, and while some may look at him and think:

“Oh, he’s just a jerk who’s trying to hook up with someone…”

 I’ve known him long enough to object to this accusation. As you might imagine, Women in Media addresses a variety feminist issues. Not only does this male friend contribute a great deal of insightful information to our discussions, but he also identifies as a feminist. Maybe the problem with male feminists isn’t that there aren’t enough, but rather that there aren’t enough who realize that they are. I think that in some ways, despite his flaws, my father is a feminist. As a child, he never told me that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. In fact when I tried my hand at the PlayStation for the first time, I lost so badly to a gaggle of boys that the next night, my dad went and bought me a game system so that I could get better and beat them some day. (It’s too bad I didn’t bother to learn their names and addresses.)

My father would let me follow him around and learn about business and advertising, a type of work that is male dominated. Why? Because he always thought that I could learn anything. Because he wanted me to enter the adult world knowing the sweet taste of equal opportunity. Because he was a feminist, whether he knew it or not. Men can be feminists and women can’t be scared to be feminists, so please, stop treating it like the F-Bomb.

What is your experience with feminism? What does it mean to you? Comment below and share my blog on Facebook and Twitter.

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